Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Smashwords Series Manager Improves Book Discovery

Smashwords today released a powerful new tool called Series Manager that makes series books more discoverable.

Series Manager allows series writers to attach their books to series, and manage multiple aspects of their series metadata.

The new feature is available now in the Smashwords Dashboard under the Series Manager link.

Once authors organize their series titles within Series Manager, readers can easily identify books within a series, or across related series.  Just as importantly, series metadata will give our retailers greater flexibility to promote books within a series.  Let's say, for example, a retailer wants to do a merchandising promotion of the top 50 bestselling Smashwords series that have a free series starter.  Without the series metadata, it would be nearly impossible for Smashwords or our retailer to accurately identify which books are in a series, and in which order.

It's not uncommon for the books in some series to make no reference to their series in the book title, book cover or book description. This makes it difficult for readers to identify all the books in a series, or books in related series, and makes it difficult for retailers to properly merchandise them.  Series Manager helps solve this problem.

With Series Manager, authors can easily attach books - including preorder books - to a series using point and click check boxes. Simply click to your Dashboard, click Series Manager, click Create New Series, then attach the books.  Authors can select from multiple series numbering methodologies such as Book 1, Book 2; or Book I, Book II; or Part 1, Part 2; or no. 1, no. 2; or you can dispense with series number and simply give the series name, such as "Fellowship of the Rings."

Series books can be members of multiple series, all
controlled within Smashwords Series Manager

Authors can even connect books that span more than one series.  For example, the Smashwords Style Guide is a member of two series, Smashwords Guides and Smashwords Style Guide Translations.

If you've written series with spinoff series, this is a powerful feature that will make it easier for fans to identify books within a series, and discover new books in your related series.

You can also identify the ideal sequence of books within a series.  For example, if the Star Wars movie series was a book, you might want to designate that the Prequel to episodes 1, 2 and 3 should be enjoyed after the first three in the series.

Smashwords will provide the new series metadata, as input by the author or publisher, to our retailers.  Each retailer will handle the metadata differently.  Some will make use of all the data, and others might cherry pick.  Either way, the improved metadata will make it easier for retailers to enhance the discoverability of Smashwords books today while having the capability to develop improved discoverability features in the future.

The series metadata will also increase the discoverability of series titles in the Smashwords store. Within each book's listing, whether it's on the book's book page or in the search results, we'll display the series to which the book is connected.

If the book is attached to more than one series, then the other series will appear as well.   In the example at left which shows the book page, the Smashwords Style Guide is a member of two series.

Series names are clickable.  Readers can click the series title and view a dedicated series page, such as my page for the Smashwords Guides.  Incorporate the link into your marketing.  If you're doing a marketing campaign around a single series, provide fans a direct to your series page.

We look forward to your feedback as we enhance this feature.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Smashwords Signs Distribution Agreement with Oyster

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Oyster, a new and innovative ebook subscription service.  Oyster offers consumers unlimited access to more than 100,000 ebooks for $9.95 per month.

I’ve been following the ebook subscription space for some time.  As an ebook distributor, our job is to search out the most compelling opportunities to help our authors connect with reader eyeballs.  Oyster is one such opportunity. 

The closest analog to Oyster in the music business is Spotify, and in the video rental business it’s our Los Gatos neighbor NetFlix.  The closest, most familiar analog to Oyster on the ebook market today is Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library, where subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service who own a Kindle can download and read one ebook for free per month.  The author or publisher, who must enroll their book in Amazon’s KDP Select program to benefit from KOLL, earns about $2.00 for each download.

I expect Smashwords titles to begin shipping to Oyster in about three weeks.  At least 72 hours before we begin shipping to Oyster, I’ll send out an email alert to all Smashwords authors and publishers.  The email will contain complete financial details, including royalty rates and sampling thresholds, so you can make an informed decision about your participation.  It’s an author friendly deal so I expect you’ll be pleased.
Oyster offers an all-you-can-read
e-reading buffet, complemented
by an elegantly designed e-reading
app with social reading features.

Unlike KDP Select, Oyster does not require exclusivity.  It’s open to all Smashwords authors. A single Oyster user could conceivably read multiple books by the same Smashwords author in a single month, and the author will be paid for each book.  Smashwords authors will earn their royalty whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than a sample of their book.
Oyster’s subscription service will help our authors connect with a segment of the reading audience they’re not reaching anywhere else.  Oyster will also give authors yet another reason to steer clear of exclusivity and embrace full distribution with Smashwords.

Oyster formally launched today with its iPhone app, which users can download from Apple’s App Store.  From what I’ve seen of it, the app is elegantly designed.  It incorporates social reading features that allow readers to follow and friend fellow readers and see what their friends are reading or have read.  The app will be available on other platforms in the future.

Oyster has impressive backers drawn from Silicon Valley and New York.  Back in October, they announced $3 million in funding led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.  The round also included Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, Chris Dixon and Sam Altman.

Smashwords authors don’t need to do anything to enjoy Oyster distribution other than ensure their books are Premium Catalog-approved.  If you’re not yet publishing and distributing with Smashwords, click here to get started today.

Learn More Check out my two-part series where I examine the business models and potential impact of the ebook subscription services:

Examining the Business Model of Ebook Subscription Services (Part I)

How Ebook Subscription Services May Redefine the Value of Books (Part II)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Smashwords Publishes 250,000th Book

An indie author today released the 250,000th book on Smashwords.

In the last 30 days, over 9,000 books were released at Smashwords.  In 2008, we released 140 books in the first year.

The 250,000 books comprise 8.5 billion words.  Imagine the millions of hours of love that went into these books.  Imagine the cultural treasures that are now available and discoverable to future generations.

Five years ago when we launched Smashwords, self-publishing was viewed as the option of last resort for writers. Today, it's becoming the option of first choice.  The stigma of self-publishing is melting away as the stigma of traditional publishing increases.

Indie authors are becoming professional publishers.

Writers have learned that with ebook self-publishing, they can enjoy faster time-to-market, greater creative control and 4-5 times higher royalty percentages.  The higher royalty rate enables indie authors to price lower while still earning more per ebook sold.  This gives indies a significant competitive advantage over traditionally published authors.  When readers are given the choice between two books of equal quality, and one is $3.99 and the other is $12.99, the $3.99 title is more desirable.  The $3.99 indie earns about $2.50 for every book sold, whereas the $12.99 author earns $1.60 to $2.25. 

Based on our survey data, a $3.99 ebook will sell over four times as many copies as a book priced over $10.00.  This pricing power gives indies a tremendous platform-building advantage.  Authors who reach the most readers today will have the largest fan bases ten years from now.

The advantages indie authors enjoy in the marketplace are real, and these advantages will increase in the years ahead as reader eyeballs transition from paper to screens, and as brick and mortar bookstores continue their steady decline.

I wonder if the traditional publishing industry has yet come to terms with the ramifications of the rise of indie authorship. 

Indie authorship isn't a noun.  It's an attitude. A mindset.  It's about believing in yourself.  It's a movement. It's a movement that believes every writer has a right to publish. It's a movement that understands that every writer - regardless of commercial potential or metrics - has something special to share with the world.  It's a movement that celebrates the value of the book above the value of a dollar.  Every writer is important.  Indie authorship leaves no writer behind.

Five years and 250,000 books in, I still feel like we're just getting started at Smashwords.  Wait until we reach 500,000 books, or one million.  Our amazing authors have barely scratched the surface of what's possible. Watch, you'll see.